What to do (and what not to do) if you are ever questioned by alleged
government agents or alleged federal public officers.
"Boy, I feel safer now that Martha Stewart is behind bars; O.
J. & Kobe are walking around; Osama Bin Laden and some of those Enron
thieves too. But they take the one woman in America willing to cook, clean
and work in the yard, and then haul her ass to jail."
The following advice applies mainly to our USA readers. But it can
be applied to situations in other countries, especially the UK and
Australia. This is a very important article. You never know when a
nasty situation could entrap you!
Basic rule: NEVER, under any circumstances, answer questions put to
you by any alleged government agent. The exception is at border
crossings where you have to answer all questions truthfully (or at
least with plausible responses) if you expect them to let you in.
In the USA, there is a section in the federal code, referred to as
"1001" by legal eagles. This law makes it a crime to lie to a
federal agent. The agent doesn't have to put you under oath or even
have to tape the conversation. All he or she has to do is produce
handwritten notes that indicate you made false statements. If you
tell him or her a lie, you are guilty. If he says you lied, you are
guilty if a judge or jury finds the "G-Man's" version of your
conversation more believable than yours.
Maybe you misspeak, or the agent mishears. Or maybe there is an
ambiguity that the agent chooses to interpret in an unfortunate (for
you) direction. You are on the hook and can spend some time in the
clink for basically nothing!
Lying to a federal agent does not have to mean telling lies in an
important criminal case or when you are under arrest. IRS officers
are federal agents too. There's always the possibility that you
might be tempted to shade the truth a bit when an IRS agent is
quizzing you about that tax deduction you took for a trip to Vegas;
or asking you to produce a return, or pay a tax. Our advice to you
Keep Your Mouth Shut!
Let's repeat that in other words. To be on the safe side, when
confronted by an alleged federal agent, don't say anything at all.
Well, not exactly. You need to ask them to sign a letter so they
can't later lie about what happened. Keep reading.
It's a shame things have come to this. It used to be, people felt
it their duty to cooperate with authorities. That was before the
"War on Terror" and Law 1001. We now live in an era of government
terror where civil rights are almost non-existent. You have to know
enough to protect yourself at all times.
WHAT HAPPENED TO MARTHA STEWART
Take, for example, the highly publicized case of lifestyle guru
Martha Stewart. Stewart was sentenced to jail in 2004. Her case
reflects what has happened to thousands of other less high-profile
cases: normal, respectable, honest business people. Maybe friends
of yours were already caught in the net. So what did Stewart do
She was caught out by rule 1001. She was convicted of lying about
the reason she sold her shares in a biotechnology company.
She said she sold the shares because they had fallen to the price
where she had told her broker to sell. She claimed that she
recalled having placed a "stop loss" order with her broker. The
government argued (and the jury accepted) that she sold only because
her broker passed on some inside information that the stock was
going to plunge in the next couple of days. She lied, said the
True, her stock trade, one of many she had made, had a smell of
illegal "insider trading" about it. But, the prosecutors did not
charge her with insider trading! They only charged her with lying
about it, under "1001". Stewart was convicted of lying about a
crime. But the government did not have to prove that any actual
crime ever happened. Merely stating her recollection of a single
small (for her) transaction was enough to get her a jail sentence.
Stewart saved all of $45,000 on the stock transaction when the stock
went down. Later the same stock soared way above her selling price!
But her prosecution has caused her business to go to blazes and
stockholdings in her own company decrease by hundreds of millions.
Why? Because of the accusations and the criminal trial.
What happened to Martha, who was certainly no villainous insider
trader, does not seem fair to us. Whether insider trading is really
a crime is another question. Our personal experience is that when
given so called insider tips, the stock involved usually went the
opposite direction the tipster indicated it would go!
Martha's "crime" was a step removed. Her spontaneous response to
one of an agent's many questions, her best memory, was deemed to be
a criminal offense in and of itself. Her co-operation and
willingness to talk was transmuted into a crime. Is that justice?
But then, what is fair about "justice" these days? It has been said
that Justice to the Department of Justice, is as military bands are
The Martha Stewart case and many others are purely for show: a
politically motivated crackdown on successful people. The
prosecution had its roots in the jealousy and ambition /of a
government bureau-rat. This is exactly as predicted by Ayn Rand and
the anonymous author of "A Lodging of Wayfaring Men". The
government has so many potential crimes on the books that a criminal
case can be made against any individual who is investigated. The
fear of prosecution is what gives government its power.
What other mistakes did Stewart make that we could learn from? She
irritated prosecutors with her arrogant attitude. "I'm innocent and
you don't have anything on me!" It's a natural reaction, a common
error that people (especially successful people) often make when
confronting for the first time a low-level, bureaucrat who asks
accusatory questions. But it's always a bad idea to make Big
Brother's Minions mad by truthfully claiming you are not a criminal.
What should you do? How should you handle a situation where you are
questioned and don't know exactly what the government guy is after?
Here it comes a third time: You shut up. Then the odds are that
there will be no evidence to make a case against you. If you do get
indicted, try first to negotiate. Remember, the Feds won't bring a
case unless they are pretty sure they will win.
Instead of warning Stewart against protesting her innocence too
loudly and fighting the case in the media, her high-priced attorney,
Robert Morvillo, only exacerbated her problems. His chief argument
was that Stewart and her broker were "too smart to pull a dumb stunt
like intentionally lying." But as one juror said later, "How could
we tell anything about how smart either of them was if they never
took the stand?" Martha was sent to jail. For nothing. How could
it have been avoided?
THE LETTER YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CARRY IN YOUR POCKET
Besides keeping your mouth shut, it's a good idea to have evidence
that you have indeed kept your mouth shut. We suggest typing out
the following letter and carrying two copies of it with you on your
person at all times:
You hand it to any alleged Law Enforcement Agent who says, "Can I
ask you a few questions?"
This is the letter:
Due to rule 1001,
I do not feel I can answer any oral questions at all unless I first clear
all your questions with a lawyer. Please submit all your questions in writing.
Mail them to me and I will get back to you. Please give me your calling card,
let me photocopy your official identification credentials and sign this letter
below. I will give you a copy as a receipt and as evidence that I gave you
no information whatsoever in this or any other interview.
Signature of government agent:________________________________________________________
Date & Time: ______________________________________________________________
Name and official position:_______________________________________________________
Telephone / Fax number:_________________________________________________________
If the agent won't sign, you should fill in the above blanks. Where
the agent should have signed, print on the letter the agent's name,
followed by "refused to sign", plus your name.
In all probability, the man or woman claiming to be a federal agent,
employee, or marshal will not submit any questions to you in
writing. That is because they have absolutely no authority or
jurisdiction to be contacting you, a private American sovereign.
ORDER THE AGENT, MARSHALL OFF YOUR PRIVATE PROPERTY
If, for some reason the alleged federal agent or marshal becomes belligerent
or insists on interviewing you, remind them of your request to mail you a set
of their questions for your attorney to review. Then ask them politely to leave
since they are trespassing upon private property.
You then advise them you DO NOT consent to be interviewed and close